Tax refund time – holiday time?
With Australian taxpapers expecting an average tax refund cheque of around $2000 in the next few weeks, many of them will turn their thoughts to having a holiday.
We’ve recently been receiving a string of offers from various airlines offering some great fares to popular destinations and some out of the way surprises as well. Even Singapore Airlines is getting into the act with an offer to Master Card holders of very attractive fares between Singapore and Australia as well as other South East Asian cities.
Top 5 destinations?
Three of Australian travellers favourite overseas destinations are now much more affordable with the current fluctuation in exchange rates favouring the Aussie $, especially against the British Pound.
- Auckland has probably seen the biggest drop in fares this year, they’re down by about a quarter of their last years value.
- Fares to London are off by about twenty percent and there’s a lot of competition between airlines on this popular route to get your backsides on their seats.
- If you’re thinking of Bali, either because you’ve been before and loved it, or never been and it’s the closest ‘real OS’ destination, fares to Denpasar are down around five percent.
- With the current stability of the Aussie $ to the US $, you can also look for a destination that uses or accepts the US currency, apart from the mainland United States, how about looking at Hawaii, or some of their overseas protectorates. There are also a number of nearby countries where you can pay for your travel needs, including Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia – you will generally receive your change in the local currency, so it’s important to know the exchange rates, so you don’t lose out.
- Travel to a domestic destination. Always popular destinations Melbourne, Perth and Sydney have seen reductions in costs up to fifteen percent, with this especially noticeable in Perth, post mining boom.
10 ways to get the best deal
Check the weather in your preferred destination (and the latest on volcanos if you’re thinking Bali) to select a good time to go. Peak season is usually based on a combination of school holidays, festivals and weather and is generally the most expensive time for both flights and accommodation. This writer has had great deals on flights and accommodation by travelling just a few days before (and after) a peak season.
Once you’ve decided to go somewhere, here are some tips to help fine up the details:
- Go somewhere off the beaten path and not yet on the ‘tourist trail’. But do your homework first. It’s useful to know, for example, that you won’t be able to get a glass of wine with your dinner in ‘dry’ Brunei and you must take off all footwear, including socks, in temples in Myanmar. Go with an open mind and ask questions, the people on the front desk in your accommodation will know the locality and prices.
- Try to be flexible with your flight dates, to give yourself more options as mid-week flights are often less expensive. On commuter flights, (Sydney / Melbourne or Singapore / Kuala Lumpur etc) look for a flight at a time that won’t suit the business flyer. Red eye flights may make a lot of sense too when you check the price – try Perth to any east coast city.
- Look for your flight as early as you can, the further in advance is usually the best idea, though you can often pick up last minute offers – sign up to airlines mailing lists for the offers. Find flights using an aggregator that will do all the work for you. Somewhere like Cheapflights will search out the different routes and prices available and rank them in order for you, which takes out a lot of the hard work.
- Keep an eye on exchange rate changes before you leave, especially important if you are buying the currency of the country you are visiting. Set up alerts so you can monitor fluctuations and buy when the price is right. be aware that many countries have currency restrictions in place and you can’t purchase their currency outside the country. Myanmar is one such country, take clean, new and unfolded USD (the easiest to change) and change when you arrive.
- Plan your spending as much as possible before you leave and pre-pay or lock in accommodation costs beforehand. Using the ATM at your destination with your credit card does not generally get you the best rate. If you can’t buy currency before you go, change a small amount at the airport, where the exchange rate is not usually to your advantage, to tide you over until you can get to a bank. You’ll usually, depending on country, get a better rate at a licensed money changer or bank. In Myanmar, always go to the Bank- the chaps on the street have very quick hands and the better rate they offer will generally not end up in your favour.
- Do buy travel insurance. Depending on your travel plans for the year, compare the cost of a per trip policy and a whole year policy. If you’re travelling as a family, check the prices for a family policy as well. Make sure the policy covers your specific needs – if you’re going to rent a car, check if you are covered for excess waiver which is usually expensive when paid when you collect the car. Check too, if the policy covers issues that might occur if you are hurt in civil unrest or any other unexpected incident.
- If you have the time, a round-about journey can cost you less. The cheapest flight between Kuala Lumpur and Brisbane used to be Kuala Lumpur – Bangkok – Brisbane – Singapore – Kuala Lumpur. It was do-able because they also threw in a hotel room and dinner on the Bangkok stopover. You may even get a longer stopover included in the fare that allows you to see a bit of the location. Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are good bets for this, especially if you travel with the country’s national airline. Some airports e.g. Changi Singapore also often offer passengers flying in and out on certain airlines (Jetstar included), a shopping voucher to spend while you wait.
- Do some planning and flight comparison. Is a return flight less expensive than changing to another airline for the flight home? Or perhaps you could consider flying home from a different airport, taking into consideration travel between the locations. Perhaps a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne and a drive along the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide before flying home from there – three holiday destinations in one.
- Go where the locals go – if you stay in an apartment or have a friend with a spare room, visit the local market or supermarket to find staples for breakfast and head off to local stalls and restaurants for meals. There’s nothing quite like sitting on a low stool chatting with the locals as you enjoy a fresh cooked meal in Hanoi. Many airports and train stations especially in Europe have well stocked supermarkets where you can collect provisions on your way to your stay.
- Use your smart phone to help you locate local deals. Pick up a local SIM with data or find a stay with free wifi to make this easier. If you have a current student card or ID that shows you are a ‘Senior’ you can often get a discount on entry to certain locations. One such example is the half price tickets to go up the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and the discount to go to the top of the Telstra Tower in Canberra is even more generous.